Let’s Hit The BAR! Lodestar’s “Business Analytics Roadmap Program”


Sounds like fun, right? As Business Analytics Coaches, we are often asked questions like, “I own Cognos and I don’t know where to start” or “How do I get the biggest wins for my business with analytics?” Well…have no fear! Lodestar Solutions has an AMAZING program that is part of our “Faster Cheaper Analytics Program”, called “Raising the BAR – Business Analytics Roadmap”.  The Business Analytics Roadmap program is a structure that facilitates the process of defining, prioritizing, evaluating communicating, developing, and executing your organization’s Business Analytics Roadmap.

Faster Cheaper Analytics program

The outcome is to have all areas of the organization working in unison to improve performance while leveraging data and analytics to drive innovation and better decision making.  This will directly result in increased profitability.

Our approach is simple. We follow a defined process that takes you through 6 phases of the BAR development. The key to success is executive and company-wide commitment to becoming an analytics driven organization.  The phases include Purpose/Outcomes, Vision Definition, Evaluation, Culturing, Leader Growth, Execution and Succeed.   Using a series of exercises, conversations, and workshops over the course of 2 days, we provide your team with a complete roadmap along with next steps.

Business Analytics Roadmap Program

“Raising The BAR – Business Analytics Roadmap” is just one of many items in our “Faster Cheaper Analytics Program!” I would love to talk with you more about this program and more!  Feel free to contact me at Services@LodestarSolutions.com to get you and your company on the path to success.

Ditch Your Business Analytics Project Charter!


Ditch your Project Charter!I have always strongly recommended that all business analytics clients complete a Project Charter. The Project Charter is a working document that defines the goals of a project, the resources, the risks and the timeline written to ensure all team members were on the same page and the definition of success was agreed upon.  As a business analytics coach at Lodestar Solutions, I found clients reluctant to do this step in the process.  Maybe they thought it was too much work and maybe they feared putting their thoughts in writing for fear of being wrong or held accountable.  I reflected on the situation for a long time and then I realized it was time to scrap the project charter.

At Lodestar Solution, we focus on constant improvement and for 2016 we are telling you to forget creating the formal project charter! We recommend a new and exciting method for defining success for the project.  This method will:

  1. ensure that all team members are actively engaged in the definition of success for your business intelligence or analytics project
  2. will allow for changes midstream without huge cost overruns
  3. increase team member job satisfaction
  4. save a lot of time

Are you ready to get started? Here’s how it works:

Step one: Project Evaluation Workshop – This is an interactive workshop where participants brainstorm on what they need in a solution and write their ideas on sticky notes. As a group, they then categorize these needs and prioritize them.  Check out this Post-it’s blog for ideas:


Step two:  Document results on Scrum Board or results template – We recommend the items be converted into user stories and added to an Agile or Scrum project board.   If you are unfamiliar with Scrum Management tools check this out: http://www.softwareadvice.com/resources/project-management-scrum-tools/

Step three: Estimate a ROI for this phase of the project.  If this is a new project and you need to get funding and resources, we recommend developing the benefits of having this solution.   Focus on how this could save or make the company money.  During one of our recent 2-day workshops, one client realized by implementing a dashboard with timely information they could save the company $1.2M a year.  Now that’s a nice ROI.

If you want to ditch the project charter and you like these ideas, please reach out to us at 813-254-2040 or at Coaching@LodestarSolutions.com.

Dashboards & Data Visualization With Color


Are you a numbers person like me?  Do you struggle with what color to put on your dashboards and data visualizations?   If you are like me, you hate decorating your house because color overwhelms you.  Unlike colors, numbers don’t have 500 shades and I like that.  So how do those of us who seem to lack a right brain create good looking effective data visualizations & dashboards with color?TM1 licenses & Workspace Dashboards

Let me introduce you to a new book “Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals” by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic.

As Business Analytics Coach at Lodestar Solutions, our Destination Dashboard workshop is designed to help clients define and get buy-in as to what goes on a dashboard.  This has been a workshop clients have loved but Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic’s new book & workshops take data visualization coaching to a new level as she teaches you color and style.   She starts with understanding the situational context including your audience, tone, and communication mechanism then leads you through effective visuals. In chapter four, she coaches the reader on how to strategically use color in your data visualization and dashboards.   She presents 7 lessons in using color to communicate with data.

  1. Color grabs attention
  2. Color can signal where to look
  3. Color should be used sparingly
  4. Color can carry quantitative value
  5. Color carries tone and meaning
  6. Not everyone sees color
  7. Color should be used consistently

For more information on this, checkout her video “Being Clever With Color” and feel free to check out her website: www.storytellingwithdata.com.

I love that fact she highlights that some people don’t see color. Have you been considering that in your visualization designs? For many of us highly analytic people that would prefer to communicate in binary or hexadecimal, she provides a great guide for us to think like a true dashboard and data visualization designer.

Nussbaumer Knaflic’s book does not dive deep into what makes a memorable visualization.  According to Hanspeter Pfister, a Wang Professor of Computer Science at Harvard SEAS, “A visualization will be instantly and overwhelmingly more memorable if it incorporates an image of a human-recognizable object—if it includes a photograph, people, cartoons, logos—any component that is not just an abstract data visualization,” “What makes a data visualization memorable?”.   Her teachings are very effective.  How to create memorable visualization would be a great topic for Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic’s next book.

My recommendation is that you go order “Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals” by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic to learn how to create quality data visualization & dashboards with color .  To receive more information on dashboards or how to make yourself a more effective Business Analytics leader in your organization, we urge you to join the Lodestar community at www.LodestarSolutions.com. Members will gain access to our private library and educational newsletters.

Heather L. Cole On Why BI Projects Fail


Our friend Joe Stangarone, President of mrc and 30+ year IT professional, wrote a great blog post on how many business have high expectations when they adopt BI solutions only to be disappointed after they see the results. These businesses subsequently put the blame on the software. Joe goes on to discuss 5 factors that hinder your BI projects.

In his first point, “It doesn’t really fit your business”, he explains how details can fall through the cracks when you’re doing your requirements gathering and quotes Lodestar Solutions very own Heather L. Cole who said:

“The biggest reason why BI fails is that companies don’t do proper requirements gathering,” says Heather Cole who is President and CEO of Lodestar Solutions. “Often times, IT might interview the business, create a list of requirements, and they start building. BI needs to be a collaborative project between IT and the business. IT is still running projects via a waterfall method, which doesn’t work in the ever changing business environment of today. Both IT and the business should be educated on Agile/Scrum methodologies and all BI projects must be run in some form of agile method, so there is constant communication between the business users and IT.”

Joe goes on to cover how the data may not be clean, you may have blind spots, it’s not maintained, and how end users may not adopt it.

To see the entire article, visit mrc’s Cup of Joe Blog by clicking this link: 5 problems that create “Unintelligent” Business Intelligence

Why BI Projects Fail

Financial Planning Process Improvement With Storyboarding


Does anyone dispute that the budgeting and forecasting processes are necessary overhead activities? How painful was your recent process? Are there areas you could improve? As a Lodestar Solutions Business Analytics Coach, many clients feel there are so many areas for improvement that they don’t know where to start.

At Lodestar Solutions, we coach our clients to use Storyboarding. Storyboarding is a highly impactful technique that identifies where you can streamline processes, optimize staff, and get focused. And it’s so simple!

Unlike traditional methodologies, storyboarding is told from the perspective of the end user. This is key!  Storyboarding is a method to identify what has the most impact or benefit to the recipients or users.

Whether it’s improving a process, developing a software solution, or anything that has to be delivered to users, storyboarding will reduce development & implementation time, eliminate frustration, and increase end users satisfaction.

The laser focus from storyboarding:

  • Dramatically reduces inefficiencies by cutting time and costs
  • Identifies risks and bottle necks in current process
  • Identifies areas of systemization and automation

Additional risk eliminating benefits are:

  • Full understanding of the process from start to finish
  • Cross training of FP&A team members

HOW DO I STORYBOARD TO IMPROVE MY BUDGET? Storyboarding is the simple process of organizing thoughts and ideas with sticky notes.  Why does Lodestar Solutions suggest using Sticky notes you ask?

In his book, Change by Design, Tim Brown, CEO of the design and innovation company Ideo, recommends the Post-it Note as a perfect tool for brainstorming, because it provides a way to converge on a solution when many possibilities exist. Here’s his Ted Talk on “Design Thinking” http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_brown_urges_designers_to_think_big?language=en

So go get stacks of super sticky notes (The super part is critical!) and start breaking down the experience that users have which we call “stories”. This should be done from the perspective of both end users and power users. If you struggle with the concept of a story, think of a “day in the life of”, how they use it, what challenges do they have, etc.

Pick a user and start writing each major theme/information they need on separate sticky notes and place them in a horizontal line on a wall as you discuss the story. You will identify challenges they have in the current process and areas of frustrations. You can then prioritize them and move the order around to sharpen the focus. Then, vertically under each theme are the more detailed steps written on a separate sticky note. Who are the users or contributors in that process? How are they connected? How can it be made better? How can it be automated? What are the risk points?

Storyboarding allows you to focus on a particular part while understanding how it’s integrated into the entire process.

Financial Planning Process Improvement

If you are in the budget or forecasting process or just completed it, it’s a great time to host a Storyboard Workshop while it fresh in everyone’s mind.

Your Storyboard Workshop should be open to anybody involved in the process. Include all the people the process touches because it aids them in understanding how their piece impacts the process. It will also clearly highlight bottlenecks, waste, and risk areas.

Clearly, this is a summary of the process in its most basic form. Lodestar Solutions experienced Business Analytics Coaches, in conjunction with HeatherizedTM, have developed a Storyboarding Playbook and facilitator tool kit. To get a free copy of Lodestar’s Storyboarding Playbook and start reducing costs, risks, and frustrations, email Sales@LodestarSolutions.com with the promotional code STORYBOARD15.

Lodestar Solutions coaches use Storyboards for all our projects whether it’s implementing a software solution for a client, developing new coaching programs & materials, or marketing campaigns & strategic planning endeavors.

If you need assistance facilitating your Storyboarding Workshop, contact our experienced Lodestar Business Analytics Coaches at Sales@LodestarSolutions.com.  And don’t forget to opt-in to the Lodestar Solutions Community on our website’s homepage to receive free education and details on upcoming events.

Written/Published MB 9-22-15

Cognos BI vs Microsoft BI? Facts And 1 Man’s Opinion


As a Business Analytics Coach, I’m often asked to compare Cognos BI to other BI products.  Today I’m going to compare Cognos BI vs Microsoft BI.  At Lodestar Solutions, we believe our processes and implementation plan allow for success with any platform.  However, being informed in the difference in solutions can help make the process much easier.

Both tools offer professional report authoring, ad hoc queries, analysis options, OLAP, dashboards, cloud and many other options.  Both tools offer a lot. However, Microsoft BI can be quite cost prohibitive to deploy as you are required to purchase SharePoint Enterprise Edition and at least SQL server BI Edition.

Weaknesses of Microsoft BI and our recommendation for Cognos BI:

Cognos BI versus Microsoft BI

With the recent announcement that Cognos Express is now available as the same install as Enterprise editions of TM1 and BI (limited by license count) – it is a no brainer that Cognos BI with TM1 integration offers more for each functional area.  Specifically, it offers an easily configured self-service environment with professional report writing, desktop modeling, mobile deployment and “what if” scenarios write back through performance management, TM1.  The Cognos Express price point is such that small to mid-market clients can effectively purchase and implement a BI and Performance Management solution with very little involvement from IT.

There are many BI solutions out there and most offer the same types of things.  Make sure you look into the weeds a little deeper and see what the draw backs to each solution may be.  Lodestar Solutions can help you start this process using our software selection program and some of our project management tools so please contact us at Services@LodestarSolutions.com.

To stay up to date on all of our offerings, make sure you take 2 minutes to join our community.  You can do this by logging onto www.LodestarSolutions.com and then look on the right side of the home page.

Simply enter your name and email address and we will send you an opt-in link at that email address.  Click the provided link and you are in!!!  You get access to all of our new programs, training options and many other things!  Thanks for taking a minute to join us!

Cognos Express is Now Same Software as Enterprise


My responsibility as a Business Analytics Coach at Lodestar Solutions is to keep IBM Cognos clients informed on the huge changes IBM is making with Cognos Express 10.2.2. This affects all Cognos Express clients using Cognos Express BI or Cognos Express Performance Management (TM1).

1. Cognos Express 10.2.2 will be the exact same software as IBM Cognos Enterprise version of 10.2.2. In the past Cognos Express has typically been a version behind and slightly different code. Not anymore! Cognos Express clients will be downloading the enterprise version 10.2.2 of the software but their licensing will have some restriction. You will have immediate access to the latest product enhancements, product corrections, fix packs, and future versions of Cognos TM1 & Cognos Business Intelligence as soon as they are released.

2. You can install your Cognos Express TM1 and Cognos Express BI licenses on separate computers. The number of Express user restrictions remains the same: a maximum of 100 users, including no more than 50 Performance Management users. Note that I believe there is a PVU restriction on the servers under the Express licensing. Please call Lodestar Solutions for the latest information on PVUs and other licensing questions.

3. Multiple TM1 Servers. You will be able to set up multiple TM1 servers so you can separate your HR, Finance and Marketing models. (Look for a future blog on the impact of this, it’s huge!)

4. Express Performance Management (TM1) users got supersized. Express TM1 users now have rights to Cognos Analysis for Excel (Café) with their licenses via 10.2.2. See our user group video on Cognos Microsoft Office integration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqG2bcK3sLI

Cognos Express version 10.2.2

5. Cognos 10.2.2 is compatible with Office 2013. These links will take you to IBM’s site for the latest information on supported environments: TM1 Supported Environments, Cognos BI Supported Environments

6. Some Cognos Express features are going away! Pre-set configuration, pre-defined namespaces and user/groups, Express Manager, integrated backup and restore, and remote client installation are replaced by the standard Cognos TM1 and Cognos Business Intelligence administrator functionality. It offers more flexibility and robust capabilities with options that were not previously available such as setting up SSL.

7. If you outgrow Express user limits, you only need to trade up and purchase any additionally required user licenses. You will already have installed the required software.

All this information is just coming out of IBM so it’s subject to change! We will write additional blogs on how you can leverage this huge move from IBM. To set up a call with one of our Business Analytics Coaches on how this impacts you personally, please contact Lodestar at Service@LodestarSolutions.com or 813-254-2040.

7 Practical Ways To Improve BI User Adoption

Heather Cole, President of Lodestar Solutions, was interviewed on her insight in to ways to improve BI user adoption.  Below is the article:

Business Intelligence is booming. In 2013, businesses spent $14 Billion on Business Intelligence software. By 2018, analysts predict that number will balloon to $114 Billion.

Why are we seeing such massive growth?

It goes hand-in-hand with the growth of data. It’s estimated that the world’s data is doubling every two years. With this data explosion, more businesses are turning to BI tools. These BI tools help them make sense of this data, and turn it into a competitive advantage.

The only problem: BI user adoption rates remain flat. A recent study puts BI adoption among employees at 22%.

In other words, businesses are investing in BI solutions more than ever before. Yet, users still aren’t using the solutions. That’s a problem.

What’s the solution? How can you improve BI user adoption? Today, let’s focus on fixing that problem. Here are a few ways to improve BI user adoption:

Improve BI user adoption

Read the rest of the article including Heather Cole's tip at this link:

Lodestar Solutions 2013 Wrap Up

Lodestar Solutions 2013 Wrap Up

Since Lodestar Solutions is a company promoting how Analytics can provide insight to every business, we have decided to share a few tidbits of our own from 2013.

How Lodestar Solutions Helped You!

69 Blogs posted with tips and tricks to help our customers and fellow Business Analytic Users
33 New videos recorded and posted to our YouTube channel to teach our customers

372 People educated for free on Lunch & Learn webinars
113 Students taught onsite by a Lodestar Solutions coach
73 Clients educated on licensing through our free ROI Consultation
50 Successful projects completed for clients
1 Newly redesigned website to provide you with more information

How Lodestar Solutions Helped Our Community!

815 Hours volunteered at a local animal shelter
120 Junior Achievement kids taught by Lodestar Solutions
10 Cats and kittens fostered in our homes and office

And Just For Fun …
7548 Views from our videos on our YouTube Channel
15 Days spent skiing in Colorado
3 out of 4 nights playing bar trivia, Heather & her team were victorious

Lodestar Solutions Business Analytics Coach

2013 was an amazing year for Lodestar Solutions and we look forward to 2014 with many new exciting programs to better serve you, our valued clients, to reach your Business Analytic goals.